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‘Sheep without a Shepherd’ and the Old Testament Mediatorial Kingdom

December 6, 2013 Leave a comment

From my daily genre Bible reading, including recent readings in Ezekiel and Numbers, the following observation.  Ezekiel 34 is a well-known text on the subject of the shepherd and the sheep, and the wicked shepherds who did not take care of the sheep; Jesus in John 10 expands on and identifies with this figure as well.   But in also reading through the Pentateuch, comes an interesting “first mention” of the idea of sheep without a shepherd.  Sheep and shepherds are of course introduced generally in Genesis, with Jacob meeting Rachel – and the subsequent chapters of Jacob’s contribution to Genesis.  But Numbers 27:16-17  contains the first mention of the idea of a people needing a shepherd to lead them so that they be not “as sheep that have no shepherd.”

The scene is near the end of Moses’ life, and Moses’ request for someone to succeed him in leading the people that now are a nation – and the request is granted, in Moses’ assistant Joshua. Here I am also reminded of the kingdom concept as brought out in Alva McClain’s “Greatness of the Kingdom,” including his point that the mediatorial kingdom began in history under Moses.  We often think of the Old Testament kingdom as specifically that established under the monarchy (King Saul, then David and Solomon), but the concept began in history with the Exodus from Egypt, the covenant nation established before God,  with God as their king and Moses their leader.  Numbers 27 brings this out, in this first reference to this concept, in the matter of leadership succession within this mediatorial kingdom.

The idea of “sheep without a shepherd” does not appear in the scriptures again until several hundred years later, during the divided kingdom and the early prophets: first in the account of Micaiah’s prophecy of Ahab’s destruction (1 Kings 22:17 and 2 Chronicles 18:16):  I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd.”  Judgment is in view here, that the king (Ahab) is destroyed, and the people are without a leader.  The next time the concept is mentioned is the later prophets associated with the Babylonian exile, the end of the mediatorial kingdom in Old Testament history:  Jeremiah 23:1 and 50:6, followed by this as the topic of Ezekiel 34.  How fitting it is, and brought together in the daily genre reading of different sections of the Bible, to see this unity and overall theme seen throughout the Bible including Old Testament history and prophecy:  the concept of sheep without a shepherd introduced near the beginning of that mediatorial kingdom, then at two points of judgment, earlier in the decline (the time of Ahab) and again at the end of that era of Israel’s mediatorial kingdom, just before the “times of the Gentiles” began.

The First Mention of Caves in the Bible

October 27, 2012 5 comments

Earlier this month on vacation, I visited Mammoth Cave National Park, and so the topic of caves was near to mind in my daily Bible reading this week when I came upon this first mention of a cave, Genesis 19:30 (speaking of Lot): “So he lived in a cave with his two daughters.”

One thing clearly brought out by the rangers doing the cave tours, concerning the history of man and caves, is the fact that – despite the common joke about men who “could live in a cave” — people don’t live in caves.  Men have explored caves for their treasures, and they have at times lived in the shelter overhangs of rocks, near the caves – but never in the caves, for several obvious reasons including lack of light and food.

From a quick look at all the references to caves in the Bible, the main idea associated with caves is as a place of hiding, when in great fear and distress.  Caves also are the place of the dead, the burial sites as described later in Genesis as well as John 11, Lazarus’ tomb.  In Gideon’s time the people built the caves and strongholds, meaning of course not actual caves themselves but places near the surface and among the rocks and caves.  David and his men often hid in the caves, as did Elijah in his flight from Jezebel.  Caves are also sometimes associated with judgment, as the place where the wicked go to in their attempts to evade capture and judgment: for instance, the Canaanite kings defeated by Joshua (Joshua 10:16-27); but especially during the future Great Tribulation (Revelation 6:15; Isaiah 2:19-21).

The first mention account of caves, near the end of Lot’s recorded life, adds this sad if seemingly trivial fact, that he lived in a cave.  After trying to have both the world and a godly life, and ending up with no influence in Sodom or even in his own family, the sad picture of Lot includes hiding and actually “living in” a cave: a fear so great, one difficult even to comprehend, that one should willingly dwell in a place of darkness, and a tragic testimony to what the fear of man can do.

J.C. Ryle’s observations concerning Lot, from Holiness, are well for us to remember:

Lot left no evidences behind him when he died. We know but little about Lot after his flight from Sodom, and all that we do know is unsatisfactory. His pleading for Zoar because it was “a little one,” his departure from Zoar afterwards, and his conduct with his daughters in the cave — all, all tell the same story. All show the weakness of the grace which was in him, and the low state of soul into which he had fallen.

We don’t know how long he lived after his escape. We don’t know where he died, or when he died, whether he saw Abraham again, what was the manner of his death, what he said or what he thought. All these are hidden things. We are told of the last days of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, David — but not one word about Lot. Oh, what a gloomy deathbed — the deathbed of Lot must have been!

The Scripture appears to draw a veil around him on purpose. There is a painful silence about his latter end. He seems to go out like an expiring lamp, and to leave an ill odor behind him. And had we not been specially told in the New Testament that Lot was “just” and “righteous” — I truly believe we would have doubted whether Lot was a saved soul at all!